Employee engagement has been a perennial concern for organizations for many years, and with good reason. Studies have consistently shown that engaged employees deliver better bottom-line results, are more loyal, and feel prouder of the work they do than employees who are not. Engaged employees build successful organizations.
To put an exclamation point on that statement, consider this statistic from a survey of 1,500 workers conducted by Dale Carnegie: Companies with engaged employees outperform those without engaged employees by up to 202 percent!
Despite this eye-popping number, 71 percent of employees say they are not fully engaged and only a quarter of businesses have an employee engagement strategy. What’s going on?
Many things. Definitions of job satisfaction are changing, from money and status to work/life balance and contribution to society. Ideas about how long to stay with a given employer are radically shorter than in generations past. Technology invites multi-tasking and global engagement, making it difficult to concentrate on the here and now.
Additionally, age-old challenges remain: Bad bosses stay while great bosses find better jobs. Disengaged co-workers create added stress and distraction. Job security is never guaranteed.
That’s reality. And here’s my challenge to you: Instead of waiting for your organization to come up with an engagement strategy, create your own!
What benefits might you derive? For starters, you could quickly become one of the most knowledgeable people on the job. By tuning in to conversations with the aim of picking up new information and insight, you could gain a deeper understanding of your business and the people and things that make it work. By noticing who forms alliances and who distances themselves from particular topics or projects, you could discover a hidden power structure. By learning the specific needs and challenges of various departments, you could gain a broader understanding of the opportunities to improve your service to customers.
Could. None of this happens until you act.
You may be wondering what good this would do because you don’t see opportunity to move up where you work. Maybe your boss has a greater interest in keeping you in your current job than in helping you advance. This happens a lot. Maybe you worry that by increasing your knowledge you’ll create tension among your friends and co-workers who are not interested in getting so involved at work. This happens, too.
But with greater knowledge and the confidence that comes with learning, you may find that your ideas about what satisfies you change. Any time you advance your skills, you pull away from those who do not. And while it can be scary to leave the comfort of what you once had, it is ultimately more exciting to move toward something bigger, better and more worthy of your time and skill.
One sure way to develop greater engagement with your work (and your life), is to put limits on your use of technology. Every time you respond to an incoming text or email message, you hand over your attention and power to the sender. Oftentimes, the sender has different priorities for your time than you do. They want to accomplish something on their to-do list regardless of what is on yours. I know the cultural pressures to respond are significant, but you have the power to set boundaries and train people to engage differently with you.
Use meetings to learn about people, projects and processes. Set aside distractions; pay attention to what is going on. Who is talking about what? Who gets results? Who has mastered the art of napping with their eyes open? Whose eyes roll whenever a particular manager starts talking? What level of preparation has each attendee undertaken? What role do you play? What does the group want to accomplish by getting together? Learning “inside baseball” will allow you to decide how and with whom you want to associate.
There are many ways to get more deeply engaged with your work. Devising and executing a personal plan can boost your confidence and open new pathways forward. Don’t give the power of your future to someone else. Claim it and engage it.
You’ll find it’s way more fun than spending another cranky year on auto-pilot!
Susan A. Marshall is an author, speaker and the founder of Backbone Institute (www.backboneinstitue.com). She can be reached at (262) 567-5983 or email@example.com.